G.R. No. 109808. March 1, 1995.]
ESALYN CHAVEZ, Petitioner, v. HON. EDNA BONTO-PEREZ, HON. ROGELIO T. RAYALA, HON. DOMINGO H. ZAPANTA, HON. JOSE N. SARMIENTO, CENTRUM PROMOTIONS & PLACEMENT CORPORATION, JOSE A. AZUCENA, JR., and TIMES SURETY & INSURANCE COMPANY, INC.,
LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION; WAGES; SIDE AGREEMENT TO REDUCE WAGES; NULLIFIED IN; CASE AT BAR. — The managerial commission agreement executed by petitioner to authorize her Japanese employer to deduct Two Hundred Fifty U.S. Dollars (US$250.00) from her monthly basic salary is void because it is against our existing laws, morals and public policy. It cannot supersede the standard employment contract of December 1, 1988, approved by the POEA. The basic salary of One Thousand Five Hundred U.S. Dollars(US$1,500.00.) guaranteed to petitioner under the parties’ standard employment contract is in accordance with the minimum employment standards, with respect to wages set by the POEA. Thus, the side agreement which reduced petitioner’s basic wage to Seven Hundred Fifty U.S. Dollars (US$750.00) is null and void for violating the POEA’s minimum employment standards, and for not having been approved by the POEA. Indeed, this side agreement is a scheme all too frequently resorted to by unscrupulous employers against our helpless overseas workers who are compelled to agree to satisfy their basic economic needs.
Uncounselled entertainment dancer signed a contract with her Japanese employer calling for a monthly salary of One Thousand Five Hundred U.S. Dollars (US$1,500) but later had to sign an immoral side agreement reducing her salary below the minimum standard set by the POEA ($750). Petitioner invoked the law to collect her salary differentials, but incredibly found public respondents straining the seams of our law to disfavor her.
Petitioner instituted the case at bench for underpayment of wages with the POEA on February 21, 1991. She prayed for the payment of Six Thousand U.S. Dollars (US$6,000.00), representing the unpaid portion of her basic salary for six months. Charged in the case were private respondent Centrum Promotions and Placement Corporation, the Philippine representative of Planning Japan, Co., its insurer, Times Surety and Insurance Co., Inc., and Jaz Talents Promotion.
POEA: favored respondents
NLRC: upheld POEA decision
WON respondent is entitled to the differential pay
WON the manning agency is solidarily liable with the principaL
First, we hold that the managerial commission agreement executed by petitioner to authorize her Japanese employer to deduct Two Hundred Fifty U.S. Dollars (US$250.00) from her monthly basic salary IS VOID because it is against our existing laws, morals and public policy. It cannot supersede the standard employment contract of December 1, 1988 approved by the POEA. Indeed, this side agreement is a scheme all too frequently resorted to by unscrupulous employers against our helpless oversees workers who are compelled to agree to satisfy their basic economic needs.c
Secondly. The doctrine of laches or “stale demands” cannot be applied to petitioner. Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, thus giving rise to a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned or declined to assert it. It is not concerned with mere lapse of time; the fact of delay, standing alone, is insufficient to constitute laches. . It cannot be worked to defeat justice or to perpetrate fraud and injustice.
In the case at bench, petitioner filed her claim well within the three-year prescriptive period for the filling of money claims set forth in Article 291 of the Labor Code. 12 For this reason, we hold the doctrine of laches inapplicable to petitioner. Laches is a doctrine in equity while prescription is based on law. Our courts are basically courts of law not courts of equity. Thus laches cannot be invoked to resist the enforcement of an existing legal right.
Our overseas workers constitute an exploited class. Most of them come from the poorest sector of our society. They will climb mountains, cross the seas, endure slave treatment in foreign lands just to survive.
Private respondents Centrum and Times as well as Planning Japan Co., Ltd. — the agency’s foreign principal — are solidarily liable to petitioner for her unpaid wages.
The parties standard employment provides:
- agent/promoter/representative (private respondent Centrum Promotions & Placement Corporation) shall be jointly and severally responsible for the proper implementation of the terms and conditions in this Contract.
- Power of the agency to sue and be sued jointly and solidarily with the principal or foreign based employer for any of the violations of the recruitment agreement and the contracts of employment